Monday, June 22, 2009


While we were in Asuncion last month, Hermelinda, a Paraguayan friend, visited our team mates with an obvious heavy spirit. Tony and Jean became concern as she mentioned restlessness, lack of appetite, mood swings, and disjointed thoughts. When we got back in town, Jeff went to visit her and found that she fit the clinical definition of depression and anxiety. He could have stopped the exam with that, prescribed pills, told her to come back in a week, and left. But God has called us to be more that just medical professionals in the community and to minister to more than just physical needs.

Last year in June, Hermelinda’s mother, Na Mami, passed away and we were able to witness the first evangelical funeral in San Francisco. Traditions are strong here and mourning rituals are deeply ingrained. The problem is that a lot of the traditions do not line up with the word of God. Na Mami’s children (some believers and some not) had to make difficult decisions about how to honor Na Mami. At the graveside, instead of it being a time of hysterics and wailing, the family wanted a gospel message shared and a time of singing. Instead of praying for her soul for the 9 days following her death, we gathered for 9 days to sing and rejoiced that Na Mami is now in heaven. Changing these traditions made a lot of people talk. One man who had been hosting a bible study was told by his father, “As long as I am alive you will not associate with those evangelicals because when I die, you will honor me and pray for my soul.”

Another tradition for the dead takes place at the year anniversary. Candles are lit, prayers are said, and pleading is done on behalf of the dead. Now, at the year anniversary of her mother’s death, Hermelinda found herself in a state of depression. Jeff asked if she had seen any other medicos (non-licensed physicians) and she admitted that she had. The medico told her that her mother’s spirit had come back and was now trying get into her body. Although Hermelinda has attended a small group Bible study for a couple years, she has had no interest in baptism and is not consistent in coming to Sunday prayer meetings. Jeff asked her if she considered herself a creyente (a believer) and she said yes.
Jeff (and later Jean) confronted her about not following Jesus 100%. Jeff explained that witchcraft has no place in the life of a believer. The following Sunday Hermelinda came to church and before the service even began she blurted out that she wanted prayer for “wrong thinking”. How wonderful it was to see the body of Christ lifting her up before the throne of God. I am so thankful that Jesus calls himself the Prince of Peace and we can now offer that gift to those who are living in fear.

Through medicine, we have and incredible open door to minister to spiritual and physical needs; may we never fail to treat both.

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